For Molly: Reflections on the Water #1
Tonight (30 Sept. 2007), you were baptized, immersed in water and faith. We’ve talked much about what that means: You have expressed faith in Christ, love for God, and a desire to follow Jesus as Lord and Savior. And this is serious stuff, girl. The famous theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, said, “When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die.” Bonhoeffer lived in Germany, long before concerns about inclusive language–what he said was meant for the calling of women, too. For Bonhoeffer, this became very literal: He was hung by the Nazis in Flossenberg just days before the camp was liberated by the Allied troops–and he died praying for his enemies.
In saying “Yes” to God’s offer of salvation in Christ, we die to sin, die to living our own lives by our own rules, die to “being our own person.” We are raised to a new life–a life in which we belong to Christ. Because we belong to Christ, we are expected to follow after Him as active disciples. We are to study and meditate on Christ’s teachings in the Gospels, especially the Sermon on the Mount, and we are to seek ways to live them out in our lives. You have already begun this by refusing, back in grammar school, to say the Pledge of Allegiance as a violation of Jesus’ ban on oaths. You were teased by your peers and pressured by school officials to change your mind, but, with the full support of your parents and church, you stayed your ground. So, you already know that being a Christ-follower will make you different–in ways that are not always comfortable.
Unlike a Muslim girl with a headscarf or a Jewish boy with a yarmulke, this difference that being a Christian makes will not usually be visible to the naked eye. With a few exceptions, we Christians wear the normal clothes of our particular cultures–within reason. Because we believe in modesty and believe that the human body is not to be a constant advertisement for sex, we usually will wear more modest clothes than some others do. But we have no Christian “uniform.” For people to see the difference God makes in your life, they will have to watch your actions–and they will whether you want them to or not.
When you were nominated for the People to People Student Ambassador program (before we realized we couldn’t afford for you to participate), we talked about what it would mean for you to go to another country as a citizen-ambassador for America, remember? Well, as a baptized follower of Jesus, you are now an Ambassador for Christ–all the time, for the rest of your life. Your words and actions will reflect on Christ and the cause of Christ–for good or ill. (Remember the time we were “flipped off” by the driver of a car with a bumper sticker that said, “Follow Me to 1st _____Church of ____?”)
People will make decisions about Jesus and about Christianity based on what they see in you, if they know you are a Christian. Are your words honest? Do your words run people down or build them up? When you must give criticism, as we all must from time to time, is your criticism helpful or just nasty? Does your heart burn with compassion and yearn for justice? Do you strive to make peace with your enemies? When people observe your buying habits, do they see someone obsessed with fashion, glitter, glamour and owning things–or do they see someone concerned to live simply so that they help others and the earth?
Is all this heavy and serious? Yes, but no one is perfect at it–least of all me. And this is also a time of joy and delight. And your mother and I and your church family are delighted and rejoice with you.
[In part II, I reflect more on the nature of baptism itself.]
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